Hit Parader magazine, January 1982 

"Stevie Nicks: Poetry in Motion" by Blair Jackson

-A Riddle Wrapped Inside A Mystery Inside An Enigma-

"I'm always nervous about doing something new," Stevie Nicks tells me as we sit on the couch of her Marina del Rey, California condominium.  Outside, the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash on a seemingly endless expanse of sand. Inside, Nicks is reflecting on her fears about putting out her first solo album Bella Donna.  "I was particularly nervous about making this album alone because I knew I wouldn't have four other people to blame if it didn't do well.  In Fleetwood Mac, I fail with four other people if I fail. Here, if I fail, I fail alone.  And it's always scary to be alone."

Nicks' fears were natural of course.  There are numerous successful 'group' musicians who have floundered as solo performers.  In the case of Bella Donna, however, the judgment of the always fickle record-buying public came in quickly and very strongly; the LP was an instant smash, thanks, in part, to the pre-album release of the single "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," a duet featuring Nicks and the song's author, Tom Petty.

Petty and his band, the Heartbreakers, contribute to several tracks on Bella Donna, and the album was produced by Jimmy Iovine, whose work on the last two Petty albums helped them achieve platinum success.  In addition, Nicks assembled some of the best players in rock to back up her solo flight, including the ubiquitous Waddy Wachtel on guitar, drummer Russ Kunkel, former Little Feat keyboardist Billy Payne, and E Street Band pianist "Professor" Roy Bittan.

"The whole thing was very spontaneous," Nicks says.  "It was hard to arrange everyone's schedules so they could work with me, so I was real lucky to get the musicians I did. The Heartbreakers don't sit around waiting for phone calls to get them to do session work.  Russ and Waddy have impossible schedules.  So we worked around them.  We'd get them for two or three days at a time and really move quickly.  We couldn't waste a minute."

As Nicks is quick to point out, that is not the way Fleetwood Mac operates.  That group's last studio record, the double-LP Tusk took and incredible 13 months in the studio to complete.  "Fleetwood Mac records everything from a more technical standpoint than I like," she says.  "I just can't stand around and do 50 takes on a vocal.  I want to sing it once, maybe twice, and if the feeling isn't right, maybe go to something else.  But Fleetwood Mac works on everything very meticulously.  I care about the final sound you hear when it comes up on the radio."

"Don't misunderstand me," she adds.  "I love the way Fleetwood Mac sounds.  I wouldn't be in it if I didn't.  But I just didn't want to devote quite so much time to Bella Donna, because I'm too lazy.  On Tusk I was at the studio almost every day for 13 months but I probably only worked for two months.  The other 11 I did nothing, and you start to lose your mind after a while if you're not active.  See, they all play instruments and I don't.  So I'm looking at them through a window in the studio; five hours go by and they don't even remember I'm there.  It's frustrating."

There had been rumors floating around that Nicks wanted to make a solo album as much as three years ago, but the "right time" didn't arrive until after Fleetwood Mac completed its grueling, year-long tour in support of Tusk last fall.

"I just decided when I came off that tour that I was not going to give up my life and die a lonely, overdone, overused rock star," Nicks says, her voice rising with emotion.  "There's no glamour in that.  I don't want to be written up in 50 years as a miserable old woman who never got to do anything but tour and be famous for ten years and then it was over.  I'm far too intelligent to not know that there will be a time when I won't be 33 anymore, when I won't be that pretty anymore, and I'll be tired.  I want to know that I can still have fun and function on my own and be part of the world.  That's why I made this album alone.  I can't give my live away anymore for Fleetwood Mac.  That was an important realization for me."

Nicks has always been an extremely candid individual, both in interviews and in her songs.  If you examine the tunes she's written since joining Fleetwood Mac with her then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham in 1974, you can glean much about her life, the way she relates to friends and lovers, and her unique world view.  Stevie Nicks is an optimist to the core -- though there is certainly heartbreak in several of her songs.  Her universe is populated by spirits, living and departed, who dare to dream, who fly with the birds and who live inside each person's heart.  She is the first one to agree that the word "spacey" applies to her, and unabashedly speaks about the influence of the supernatural on her life, the power of pyramids and reincarnation.  "It upsets me when people make fun of the things I believe in," Nicks says.  "I don't think there's anything funny at all about my love of ethereal things or magic or the spirit world.  I'm very serious about those things."

Bella Donna "chronicles my live for the past ten years," Nicks says.  Included is a song written two years before she joined Fleetwood Mac (After the Glitter Fades, an uncannily premonitory tune about pop stardom), several from the mid- and late-seventies, and one -- Edge of Seventeen -- that was penned this year, following the deaths of John Lennon and one of Nicks' uncles. "Of course the songs are going to reflect things that happen to me," Nicks comments, "but I try to make my songs universal enough that other people can appreciate them, too.  I talk about problems everyone in the world has. They're not unique to me."

"My songs don't change very much over time," she adds.  "I still write the same way I did when I was 16.  I'm no better now on guitar or piano than I was then.  I do exactly what I always did - write about what's happening at the moment."

Nicks is an incredibly prolific songwriter.  As Tom Petty told me shortly after he had worked with Nicks on Hard Promises, "We'd be working in the studio and there'd be a break when we didn't need her, and immediately she'd go over to a piano and start working on songs.  That girl likes to write!"  Stevie is happiest "when I write a song every day or every couple of days," she says.  "Last night I wrote a song in the middle of the night.  I got up, came out here to the organ and just started playing.  I filled up two sides of a cassette with ideas for a song.  It's about how this house shakes every time the waves crash."

Since Bella Donna includes only nine of her songs and most Fleetwood Mac albums feature just two or three Nicks compositions, she has a tremendous backlog of unrecorded songs.  "I have filing cabinets filled with stuff," she says with a laugh.  "Not just songs, either.  I've been writing in a journal for the past six or seven years, so I've got the entirety of Fleetwood Mac's history completely written.  It could be such an incredible book.  There are books within books, about all the albums, our tours, the relationships -- Lindsey and Stevie trying to work together, John and Chris trying to work together.  It's all there.  You have no idea of all the stuff that's gone on in this group.  It's been fascinating."

Nicks hopes that now that she has made at least a tentative move away from total dominance by Fleetwood Mac, that her life will "become more normal, less like a rock star locked in a hotel room all day."  She plans to make other solo albums, and she has a number of other projects that interest her.  "I'd love to write children's books.  I have a lot of neat stories that are actually fables for grown-ups and children.  I think it would be fun to make a record for children.  You can teach kids an incredible amount through music.  I'd also like to record an album of songs by my grandfather, A.J. Nicks, who was a country singer.  There's so much I want to do, and it feels like I'm only just now figuring out how to organize my life so that I can do it all."

Which is not to imply that Nicks suddenly finds herself with lots of spare time.  Shortly after she finished recording Bella Donna she flew to Paris to record Fleetwood Mac's anxiously awaited follow-up to Tusk.  There is talk about mounting a tour to support Bella Donna featuring some of the musicians and singers who appear on the album.  And, of course, there will probably be a Fleetwood Mac tour sometime in 1982.  "It won't be a year long this time," Nicks says firmly.

Nicks is obviously a more tranquil person than she was even a year ago, due in large part to the success of Bella Donna.  It taught her that she could thrive on her own and that there will be life after Fleetwood Mac.  "I feel stronger than I have in years," Nicks beams.  "If I hadn't made this record and hadn't taken the time to sort all this craziness out, my next songs might sound awfully bummed out."  But instead Bella Donna soars like the white-winged dove she sings about in "Edge of Seventeen."

Thanks to Lori for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for sending it to us.